The avocado (Persea americana) is a tree native to Mexico and Central America. It produces a pear shaped fruit with firm skin and soft, creamy, buttery flavoured, pale green flesh. Nutrient rich, cholesterol free and containing poly and monounsaturated (“good”) fats, avocados are a popular ingredient in savoury dishes, including salads, sandwiches and dips.
The avocado tree is evergreen and grown in tropical, subtropical and Mediterranean climates throughout the world. While there is some evidence, including cave paintings and pottery fragments, that avocados may have been cultivated for thousands of years, records of the fruit date back to the early 1500s when the Spanish conquistadors discovered the avocado being widely cultivated in South America.
In Australia production is widespread, which results in year-round supply, but the major production regions are the Atherton Tablelands and around Bundaberg in Queensland and the south west of Western Australia. While avocado trees are adaptable to a range of climates, they are frost susceptible, particularly when young, so they are best suited to frost-free locations.
As for all tree crops, new entrants to the avocado industry will carry the risk related to the length of time between planting and the first commercial harvest, which for avocado is approximately three years.
Avocados were first planted in Australia in the 1840s, but the commercial industry only dates back to the late 1960s and is small by global standards. As at 2012–13, the Australian avocado industry consisted of around 850 growers, who produced 54,877 tonnes of avocados.
Facts and figures
- The avocado is a tree native to Mexico and Central America
- As at 2012–13 there were 850 avocado growers in Australia producing almost 55,000 tonnes
- Avocados are adaptable trees and can be grown in a range of (frost free) climates across Australia
- Avocado trees will need supplementary irrigation all year, regardless of climate
- Avocado trees are susceptible to phytophthora root rot, a devastating disease that can kill trees
- The first commercial-sized avocado crop should be harvested three years after planting
- Avocados are harvested by hand and can be easily damaged, decreasing marketability
In 2012–13, approximately 850 growers produced 54,877 tonnes of avocados in Australia.
Due to the avocado tree’s climate adaptability, the industry is spread across Australia, ensuring year round supply. Avocado production takes place in the north and south of Western Australia, the TriState region (the irrigated regions of the lower Murray Valley where the borders of New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia meet), central and northern coastal New South Wales, and south east and central coastal regions and Atherton Tablelands of Queensland.